Former Chief Advisor Dominic Cummings Accused of Withholding Key HS2 Details

Posted on 22 June 2021

The former chief advisor Dominic Cummings is currently under scrutiny for his potential withholding of crucial information regarding cost increases on the HS2 land acquisitions. This revelation raises concerns about whether his actions may have influenced Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to proceed with the project. Cummings has recently made claims that the prime minister was provided with unreliable data and nonsensical information prior to granting contractors a Notice to Proceed on the HS2 project. Adding to the controversy, Michael Gross, a former landowner in Euston, has come forward stating that he shared information on cost escalations and allegations of fraud related to the project with Cummings between late 2019 and 2020, with the understanding that it would be presented to the prime minister. The documents Gross provided included sworn statements from former HS2 staff and independent cost estimates, indicating that the projected cost of the HS2 line would amount to £106.5 billion in 2015 prices. It remains uncertain whether Cummings ever relayed this information to the prime minister.

These revelations regarding the land cost dossier have surfaced following Cummings' accusations that Johnson's decision-making regarding HS2 was based on unreliable data and nonsensical information. In an interview with NCE, Gross expressed his concerns, stating, "During Cummings' tenure as chief of staff at Downing Street, I consistently kept him informed about all the information I had gathered, which clearly demonstrates the billions lost due to fraud, incompetence, and dishonesty throughout the HS2 process. Cummings has unmistakably utilised my information in his recent attempts to undermine the credibility of the prime minister. What the public truly deserves to know is whether Cummings ever shared the information I provided with the prime minister. If he did, then it becomes evident that the prime minister's decision to proceed with HS2 was purely driven by political motives, disregarding the billions lost due to fraud, incompetence, and dishonesty. However, if Cummings neglected his duty and merely retained my information for personal use, then he must be accused of a significant dereliction of his responsibilities."

These allegations against Cummings arise following his scathing critique of HS2, where he argues that Johnson mishandled the project based on unreliable model/graph information that was presented to him. In a blog post, Cummings revealed that in January of the previous year, the prime minister was presented with what he termed as "evidence" indicating an exponential increase in HS2 demand, suggesting that the entire country would become heavily reliant on high-speed rail. The information also implied the necessity of constructing additional lines, such as HS3, HS4, and HS5, in even shorter timeframes after 2040. Cummings wrote, "A garbage model/graph was fed to a PM who had to make a decision worth over £100 billion (which he mishandled despite our pointing out the absurdities in the 'evidence')."

Earlier this year, HS2 reached a settlement with Gross regarding the valuation of his properties in Euston. Initially appraised at up to £700 million, the land was subsequently valued at £200 million by HS2, resulting in a legal claim from Gross for £500 million. The exact settlement amount remains undisclosed. It is currently unknown whether any of the documents provided by Gross were shared with the prime minister. The Department for Transport (DfT) conducted a search of their systems but found no official record of Cummings transmitting such information to The Department For Transport. The Cabinet Office and Cummings have been approached for comment, while The Department For Transport was unable to provide a response at this time.

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